Senators brace for uglier round two of campaign finance reform |

Senators brace for uglier round two of campaign finance reform


WASHINGTON (AP) – Previewing the second week of campaign finance debate, Republican Sen. John McCain on Sunday predicted more ”hysteria as we come closer to passage” of his bill to ban soft money and also fought to head off momentum for a rival plan.

Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., said he liked an alternative that would limit, not ban, soft money. Sen. Mitch McConnell, who opposes McCain’s leading proposal, also endorsed the cap.

Senators hope to reach a compromise on campaign donation regulations by the end of the week. Lott said on CNN’s ”Late Edition” that a proposal ”might have a chance” only if it increases individual contribution limits.

McCain, R-Ariz., continued to press for a full ban on soft money, the loosely regulated, unlimited donations that unions, corporations and individuals make to political parties. The plan that he and Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., are sponsoring does not increase the amount that an individual can contribute to a candidate.

McCain said the rival measure by Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., which the White House has encouraged, does not go far enough. ”I think we can beat it back,” he said.

”I don’t underestimate the difficulty here,” McCain said on CBS’ ”Face The Nation.” ”We are threatening the system that keeps these people in power. We are threatening incumbency. … Have no doubt what is at stake here. So you can probably predict more of this kind of hysteria as we come closer to passage.”

Hagel’s plan would restrict soft money donations and raise the limits on donations that individuals make directly to candidates. Hagel said on NBC’s ”Meet The Press” that his plan is a constitutional one, ”but more importantly, one that will get the signature of the president.”

After a fairly genial first week of debate, senators signaled that the second week could be more difficult.

”The real story is going to be this week,” McConnell, R-Ky., said on ABC’s ”This Week.”

He said on CNN that the Hagel bill would address any ”appearance of corruption that concerns people.”

Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., countered that the Senate should do better.

”Today we’re talking about millions and millions of dollars being spent on politics in this country, and people are getting sick of it. And we need to do something to put the brakes on to slow this down,” he said on CNN.

Responded McConnell, ”We are spending as much on politics as we did on potato chips last year. We are not spending excessive amounts of money on politics.”

Federal Election Commission records show Republicans raised about $244 million and Democrats $243 million in soft money during the past two years. Hagel’s plan would allow $60,000 in soft money donations from individuals, unions and corporations to national political parties.

Lott said the ”self-indulgent” debate on political spending was consuming two weeks ”at a time when the economy is a little shaky … and we got energy problems and we continue to worry about education in America.”

Meantime, McCain said on CBS that he had ”a cordial relationship” with Bush and did not expect the president, whom he challenged in the GOP primaries last year, to veto a campaign finance bill.

”There is always going to be bad blood when there is a tough campaign, but there certainly isn’t between me and the president … People put their heart and soul into a campaign, obviously, it takes some time to get over,” said McCain, adding that he planned no other runs for president.

Bush also said Sunday there was no feud with McCain.

”We’re friends. We don’t agree 100 percent of the time but we’re going to agree a lot of the time,” Bush said.

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